Dogs need more than just a can of meat to stay fit and healthy. To keep your dog in optimum health and ensure a long life for your pet, it is very important that you understand how to provide a healthy, balanced diet appropriate to your dog’s needs. This article explains everything you need to know.
Essential Nutrients For Dogs
There are essential nutrients that a dog must have in his diet if he is to be healthy and long-lived. These are proteins, fats, fibre, vitamins, minerals and water.
Proteins are the fundamental building blocks of healthy cells. They are necessary for building and maintaining muscle tissue. They are also important for cell repair and recovery from illness or injury. Proteins suitable for a dog can be found in lean meats, eggs and dairy products.
Not all fats are the same. Ensuring that your dog gets the right kind of fats in his diet will help promote healing and boost his vitality. The best fats for dogs are those which contain essential fatty acids. They are also an excellent source of vitamins A, D, E and K. There are some of these fats in meat but additional supplements of fish oils, which are high in omega-3, is a good idea for optimum canine health.
A dog that only eats meat will miss out on essential fibre. Fibre assists in slowing down the process of digestion, giving your dog’s metabolism more time to absorb nutrients from his food. Fibre also helps the passage of waste matter through the digestive system and will make his ‘business’ firmer and easier to pass – and clean up! Good sources of fibre for dogs are wholegrain rice and vegetables. These can be cooked and added to your dog’s meat or you can purchase ready-made ‘mixer’ granules.
Vitamins And Minerals
The vitamins and minerals your dog needs should be provided if you offer him a healthy and varied diet of fresh foods. However, if you are feeding canned food, it is a good idea to get a proprietary supplement from your pet store or veterinarian. This is usually a liquid or a powder that can be added to his meat or water. Vitamins and minerals help promote healthy skin, tissues, blood and bones. They also boost metabolism, keeping your dog fit and active.
As with any living creature, a supply of clean, fresh water is essential for health. You should make sure that your dog always has access to water. In hot weather it may be necessary to refill your dog’s water bowl two or three times a day.
Is It Better To Feed Your Dog Commercial Food Or Natural Food?
As long as all the essential nutrients mentioned above are present in the food, it is really a matter of personal choice based on individual preferences and budgets. There are advantages and disadvantages to both.
Commercial Foods Are Produced In Both Dry And Wet Forms
Dry foods can aid in maintaining healthy teeth and gums but you must be sure to check the ingredients. Not all dry foods are classified as ‘complete’ foods. A dog fed primarily on dry foods will also need extra water to compensate for the lack of moisture in his diet.
Moist foods have higher protein and fat content but don’t give your dog much to chew on. A lack of chewy material can create problems with teeth and gums. Moist foods cannot be stored as long as dry foods.
Overall, commercial foods can be good for your dog if you choose the right brand and give appropriate supplements. They are also available as special preparations tailored to the needs of puppies, senior dogs or pregnant and lactating females. The key thing with commercial foods is to be careful to read the ingredients to be sure that your dog is getting everything he needs. Learn more about the best commercial dog food in our commercial dog food reviews.
Natural foods are great for your dog but take much longer to prepare. They are also more difficult to preserve, so you will be taking trips to the store more frequently than if you feed a commercial diet. You will need to prepare raw meat and add to that cooked rice and vegetables and any vitamin and mineral supplements necessary.
It can be difficult to know exactly what quantities of the various nutrients you are providing when you feed a natural diet. It is a good idea to seek the advice of your veterinarian or animal dietician. They may also be able to provide you with recipes suitable for your dog’s particular breed.
While it is more time-consuming and complicated to do, a natural diet is closer to the way your dog would eat in the wild and you can be sure that he is not ingesting harmful preservatives or additives.
Choosing Healthy Dog Treats
In addition to his basic diet, every dog enjoys a treat. These can be given simply to add variety and interest to his day or as rewards in training or for good behaviour.
Treats can be divided into two kinds. There are ‘chewy treats’ and ‘tasty treats’. Tasty treats are usually smaller and quite high in fat and meat content. They are ideal for rewards during training. Chewy treats last longer and are designed to occupy your dog’s mind as well as exercise his jaw and keep his teeth and gums in good condition. There’s no reason why your dog should not enjoy a chewy treat every day but tasty treats should be used less frequently because of their high fat content. They are also more effective as training aids if your dog always has to work for them!
Whether you are feeding show dogs or the family pet, commercial or natural foods, the most important factor is to ensure that your dog has a varied, balanced diet that provides him with all his nutritional needs.
If you follow the advice given here, you will have a healthy, happy and long-lived canine companion.